Well, to paraphrase Marc Twain, reports of the GOP's demise are greatly exaggerated. In fact, far from dead, the Republican Party is alive and well and, if the Democrats aren't careful, they could be in for a rude awakening by 2014.
Not to be a Debbie Downer, but as I pointed out last week, the election results were as much about Republican incompetence as Democratic prowess. Seems Matt Taibbi agrees. According to him, Mitt Romney might've won the presidency had Republicans not spent so much time alienating a good chunk of the electorate.
The fact that so many Republicans this week think that all Hispanics care about is amnesty, all women want is abortions (and lots of them) and all teenagers want is to sit on their couches and smoke tons of weed legally, that tells you everything you need to know about the hopeless, anachronistic cluelessness of the modern Republican Party. A lot of these people, believe it or not, would respond positively, or at least with genuine curiosity, to the traditional conservative message of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility.
But modern Republicans will never be able to spread that message effectively, because they have so much of their own collective identity wrapped up in the belief that they're surrounded by free-loading, job-averse parasites who not only want to smoke weed and have recreational abortions all day long, but want hardworking white Christians like them to pay the tab. Their whole belief system, which is really an endless effort at congratulating themselves for how hard they work compared to everyone else, is inherently insulting to everyone outside the tent – and you can't win votes when you're calling people lazy, stoned moochers.
Whether you think it's the message or the messenger or perhaps a combination of the two, the point is that the Republican Party, if it really wants to, can recover from this self-inflicted wound. Lest we forget eight years ago, George Bush, of all people, got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. By no means is this demographic locked up.
If you look closely at Democratic gains in the Senate, almost all of them were by moderates. The only truly progressive candidate who won was Elizabeth Warren and she ran in, arguably, the most liberal state in the country.
Democrats would do well to avoid making the same mistake that Republicans made after the 2010 midterms by viewing this election as a mandate. It was, if anything, a repudiation of ignorance. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock became the poster boys for intolerance and, whether fairly or not, crystallized for many voters what the core issues were. But that's a far cry from saying that those same voters have suddenly been converted.
If we have learned anything from the last four election cycles, it is that the electorate remains extremely volatile and, thus, highly unpredictable. It is frustrated by what it sees as a broken and corrupt government that is unable to find solutions to the nation's problems. Last week they sent a number of Republicans packing. Democrats should seize this opportunity, not to gloat at the misfortunes of their misbegotten opponents, but to honestly reflect on what the true needs and desires are of a nation that is still bitterly divided and more polarized now than it was four years ago.
For the party that can best meet those needs and desires will ultimately dominate the political landscape for the foreseeable future. And counting on the other side to continually fall on its sword isn't a very good way to get there.